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Keeping It Real: Balancing Critique with Comedy in Disability Parody

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Abstract:

Comic violence against characters with disabilities has been a stock Hollywood device to elicit laughs since film’s earliest days. Film historian Martin Norden has termed the disabled character who is always the brunt of the joke, “The Comic Misadventurer.” Though this character type remains a mainstay in Hollywood film, the contemporary Comic Misadventurer takes a beating for more than mere laughs. Instead, he or she more often serves as a barometer that measures the other characters’ moral character. For example, in There’s Something About Mary, Mary measures her suitors’ worthiness by their responses to acts of comic violence against her cognitively impaired brother. InTropic Thunder, the character Simple Jack is a non-disabled actor specializing in “retard” roles for acting accolades. Both of these films drew the ire of disability rights communities who accused the filmmakers of crossing the line of representational violence into real violence—or hate speech—against disabled people in these portrayals. The filmmakers replied that they were “equal opportunity offenders,” that people from a variety of minority groups were also targets, and that the activists were humorless and entirely missed the social messages inherent in their parodies.

But are disabled activists humorless and politically correct to the point of misunderstanding representations made in their own interests?

Disability activist comedy (otherwise known as “crip humor”) is replete with their own versions of the Comic Misadventurer. For example, Mickee Faust’s Gimp Parade is a collection of vicious short comedies in which disabled people are blown up, euthanized, and abused in ways too many to count. Like other contemporary versions of the Comic Misadeventurer, Faust uses comic violence parodically to comment on non-disabled peoples’ morality. But Carrie Sandahl and Donna Marie Nudd claim that Faust does it to point to the actual violence people with disabilities encounter in their social world: euthanasia, verbal abuse, infantalization, and medicalization. In addition, the authors discuss the ways that Mickee Faust’s “ethic of accommodation” serves as a comic, creative corrective; in other words, they discuss the complicated and spirited ways that company members, with and without disabilities, negotiate what is or is not “offensive” disability humor.
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Association:
Name: NCA 95th Annual Convention
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http://www.natcom.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p366735_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Sandahl, Carrie. and Nudd, Donna. "Keeping It Real: Balancing Critique with Comedy in Disability Parody" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the NCA 95th Annual Convention, Chicago Hilton & Towers, Chicago, IL, <Not Available>. 2014-11-28 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p366735_index.html>

APA Citation:

Sandahl, C. and Nudd, D. "Keeping It Real: Balancing Critique with Comedy in Disability Parody" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the NCA 95th Annual Convention, Chicago Hilton & Towers, Chicago, IL <Not Available>. 2014-11-28 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p366735_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: Comic violence against characters with disabilities has been a stock Hollywood device to elicit laughs since film’s earliest days. Film historian Martin Norden has termed the disabled character who is always the brunt of the joke, “The Comic Misadventurer.” Though this character type remains a mainstay in Hollywood film, the contemporary Comic Misadventurer takes a beating for more than mere laughs. Instead, he or she more often serves as a barometer that measures the other characters’ moral character. For example, in There’s Something About Mary, Mary measures her suitors’ worthiness by their responses to acts of comic violence against her cognitively impaired brother. InTropic Thunder, the character Simple Jack is a non-disabled actor specializing in “retard” roles for acting accolades. Both of these films drew the ire of disability rights communities who accused the filmmakers of crossing the line of representational violence into real violence—or hate speech—against disabled people in these portrayals. The filmmakers replied that they were “equal opportunity offenders,” that people from a variety of minority groups were also targets, and that the activists were humorless and entirely missed the social messages inherent in their parodies.

But are disabled activists humorless and politically correct to the point of misunderstanding representations made in their own interests?

Disability activist comedy (otherwise known as “crip humor”) is replete with their own versions of the Comic Misadventurer. For example, Mickee Faust’s Gimp Parade is a collection of vicious short comedies in which disabled people are blown up, euthanized, and abused in ways too many to count. Like other contemporary versions of the Comic Misadeventurer, Faust uses comic violence parodically to comment on non-disabled peoples’ morality. But Carrie Sandahl and Donna Marie Nudd claim that Faust does it to point to the actual violence people with disabilities encounter in their social world: euthanasia, verbal abuse, infantalization, and medicalization. In addition, the authors discuss the ways that Mickee Faust’s “ethic of accommodation” serves as a comic, creative corrective; in other words, they discuss the complicated and spirited ways that company members, with and without disabilities, negotiate what is or is not “offensive” disability humor.


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